Natural Fibers for My Cloth Diapers

I’ve been researching the fabrics used in cloth diaper making in order to decide on the most appropriate fibers to use in my own cloth diaper line. It’s bringing me back to my days at school–crazy, hectic days–and I’m reminded of why I chose to work from home and raise a family instead of moving to the city to work in the fashion industry. I’m sure I’d be taking years off my life due to the stress, and speed of that lifestyle.

Luckily, I saved all of my Greige Goods (un-dyed, un-bleached) swatches of natural, organic fabrics that I had ordered while researching fabric suppliers for my senior fashion collection. It’s been nice being able to feel and experience the fabrics as I read about their properties.

What I knew for sure was that I wanted to avoid synthetics, and focus on soft, absorbent natural fibers that would create cozy, trim diapers with the durability to last through multiple children.  I already had a love for cotton and wool–there’s a big place in my heart for sheep, and I’ve spent some serious time daydreaming about raising some for wool that I can then spin and hand-dye. I also had an interest in hemp (I’d heard about the trimness you can achieve with it due to its super-absorbency), bamboo (also supposedly very absorbent and renewable besides), and silk (not as an absorbent fabric, but for liners).

Hemp, I found out, is amazing. Not only is the fiber super-absorbent, it’s the most durable fiber available. Hemp holds its shape over time, is naturally resistant to ultraviolet light and mold, it dries quickly, and it breathes. Hemp is actually warmer in cool temperatures, and cooler in warm, similar to wool. The other useful quality of the fiber is that it becomes softer and softer with each use. It will stiffen after the first couple washes, but only as part of the prepping process. I’ve read some hemp diaper reviews that mentioned the stiffness, which caused me–and I’m sure others–to assume another fiber might be better for cloth diapering. But, finding that hemp actually becomes incredibly soft as it wears in, I’m exited to use it. Also, hemp is extremely fast to grow, and is totally organic (no pesticides are needed). And, it even regenerates the soil that it grows in. The leaves that fall off the plants add nitrogen, oxygen, and nutrients to the soil. Hemp truly is good for the environment, and for babies.

After learning about the amount of pesticides used in growing non-organic cotton (more than most foods), I’ll be avoiding it for diapers, and everything else in life as best I can. Organic cotton, however, is incredible. It’s also naturally softer and more absorbent than non-organic. Since natural (undyed, color grown, or non-toxic dyed) organic cotton isn’t stripped (bleached and processed) of its oils (and more besides) it outlasts non-organic cotton in durability. I love cotton because it’s just so soft, it absorbs well, and, well, I always have thought it a little surreal–the way that it grows in nature, in fluffy little bunches. The fiber is pretty special.

The more that I researched bamboo, the more disappointed I became. Bamboo is said to be a very eco-friendly, natural fiber. It’s not. The plant is eco-friendly, renewable, and great for the environment, but the fabric is not. The fabric that results from bamboo is actually bamboo-rayon. It starts off as bamboo grass, but is then processed with a lot of chemicals–toxic chemicals (the process seems to be similar to that of turning tree pulp into viscose rayon, known as a synthetic fiber). The chemicals are also then dumped, instead of being reused. There is a type of eco-friendly bamboo fabric called bamboo-linen, which is made through an enzymatic process, like hemp, but bamboo-linen is more expensive, rare, and doesn’t suit cloth diapering. Common bamboo fabric, found in cloth diapering, is very absorbent, and quick to absorb, but it’s not the wonder-fiber that it’s reputed to be. I’m planning on sticking to bamboo cutting boards, but avoiding “bamboo” fabric.

Wool is truly a wonder-fiber. Especially organic wool, which is better for the environment–and the sheep. Wool has unique natural properties that work especially well in cloth diapering. It naturally repels liquids due to the lanolin coating the fibers, but, when it eventually absorbs liquid, it can hold up to thirty percent of its weight before feeling really damp. Wool also insulates against heat and cold. In cool weather, the pocket of air between the wool and body stays warm, and insulates. In warm weather the evaporation process of the liquid retained in the fibers keeps the body feeling cool. The fiber also has natural anti-bacterial properties, which, together with its ability to repel liquid, means it’s sanitary to simply air-out wool diaper covers between uses–in other words, they need to be washed less often than synthetic covers. Some other beneficial properties of wool are: it’s naturally fire-resistant, static-resistent, dirt-resistent, has great elasticity, and, due to the tightly coiled fibers, it’s long-lasting. Thank you, sheep. Wool is incredible, and my choice for diaper covers.

Silk, in its raw state, is said to be the only natural fiber with wicking abilities. When placed between the skin and cloth diaper, as a liner, it keeps the skin feeling dry by wicking the moisture into the diaper below. The delicate nature of silk makes it difficult for everyday use–it can’t be washed along with the other diapers because the fabric will deteriorate, and raw silk isn’t nearly as soft as the cotton or hemp in the diaper. But, due to raw silk’s natural healing properties and stay-dry effect, it’s great for helping to heal diaper rash. Raw silk is also beneficial to use when the baby will be in a cloth diaper for a longer amount of time than usual.

So, as I’ve been repeating over and over to my husband and baby, I’ve figured it out–both cloth diaper-making, and life. I’m going to be using hemp and organic cotton for diapers and doublers, wool (mostly organic) for covers, and raw silk for liners, to create my natural cloth diaper line. I’ll talk about the different weaves of fabric–which ones I’ve chosen, and why, on a post to come.

Fae is finally napping–on me, after deciding that she’d stay awake much longer than usual before her first nap today. Maybe it’s because Daddy’s on vacation.

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13 responses to “Natural Fibers for My Cloth Diapers

  1. I didn’t know that about bamboo! Our regular diapers are cotton, but his nighttime dipes are bamboo. I do like them, they’re effective, but if and when I need to replace them, I might make some different decisions!

  2. Pingback: Yes, My Life has Been Magical Lately « Going Coverless·

  3. Thanks for the insight into natural fibers. I’ve reblogged this to Cloth Diaper Guru. Thanks again for sharing your knowledge.

  4. This was so helpful! I have been doing lot’s of research on cloth diapering, and you have everything that I have been looking for all in one spot. Thank you!

  5. Wonderful post! Thank you! I am so glad now that I have some hemp cloth to use. I also want to make some menstrual pads. I was just going to make them out of hemp, but I had the thought that it might not be absorbent enough – I googled it and found your blog. Thanks for the info!

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